SFATA Delaware: Fighting for the Right to Vape

The Right to Vape

Vaping is the best way to quit smoking tobacco, which time and again has been proven to be bad for the health, and even causes cancer. But government regulation is making it difficult for vapers and their manufacturers to enjoy their right to healthy smoking called vaping.

The Royal College of Physicians has even endorsed e-cigarettes as a harm-reducing alternative to cigarettes. In a report, it said: “Large-scale substitution of e-cigarettes, or other non-tobacco nicotine products, for tobacco smoking has the potential to prevent almost all the harm from smoking in society… Promoting e-cigarettes… and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible, as a substitute for smoking, is therefore likely to generate significant health gains…”

But while a group of doctors are saying—even encouraging—that vaping is fine, the Food and Drug Administration is trying to regulate the sale of vapes and use of vapes. The government arm goes as far as treating e-cigarettes as real cigarettes. Good thing there are organizations like the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) who makes sure that the right to a less harmful habit will be available to the public. SFATA comprises responsible business owners, manufacturers, retailers and consumers of e-cigarettes. The organization aims to provide an alternative to combustible tobacco products for adults.

Here are commonly asked questions about the status of vaping regulations in Delaware:

Can you please give us an overview of the current regulation and policies covering vapes in the US which you think is most significant to the state of Delaware?

In 2015, Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill that would ban the use of e-cigarettes indoors—inside the malls, bars, restaurants, among others. It was such a bummer. Imagine, we finally found a healthy way of accommodating our bad habit, yet we cannot practice it freely because of several limitations and regulations. Good thing the different organizations fought against the regulations, which prompted the exemption of vape shops from the ban. That is, as long as the vape shop doesn’t share an establishment with another tenant or business owner. The government believes that people from Delaware deserve to breathe in a healthy air, which prompted the ban on vaping.

The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), though, said that the vapor from vaping does not have any harmful effects. Since cigarettes and the tobacco from these sticks are harmful to the health, SFATA believes any alternative should be a welcome thing. According to statistics, 29 percent of smokers who tried vaping actually quit the tobacco-laden cigarettes. There are about 45 million smokers in the United States—so that’s roughly 15 million people who have said goodbye to smoking.

How important are reduced harm alternatives to public health especially to tobacco smokers?

It is very important. Close to half a million people die from cigarette smoking and secondhand smoking every year. Even smokers know that tobacco and nicotine are harmful to them, but quitting a habit is difficult. Nicotine increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. So if there are reduced harm alternatives, these are essential in lessening those risks.

There are different alternatives to smoking cigarettes. There is a product called smokeless tobacco or chewing tobacco. This may not give smokers the same satisfaction as a cigarette, but at least it gives off a semblance of the addictive substance. There is also the long-standing nicotine gum or patch. But the idea is really to veer away from nicotine. And there is one product that is gaining popularity nationwide is the electronic cigarette. The process is actually the same as smoking. You take a hit or you puff a stick, then release smoke. But the stick doesn’t get smaller and the smoke released is perfumed. Millions of people have already turned to e-cigarettes in a bid to eventually kick the habit of smoking cigarettes. Using any of these reduced harm alternatives will significantly decrease the risk of illness by about 99 percent. Now that’s a figure that’s hard to ignore. It certainly has a large impact on public health.

How do you think should the government and health agencies view the emergence of e-cigs?

The government is doubtful of the health implications of e-cigarettes, which is now under the authority and control of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that these will be regulated as if these were tobacco products. Obviously, the government is not inclined to look at e-cigarettes as the healthier alternative to nicotine.

But the government and health agencies should seriously look into e-cigarette as a better alternative, and treat it as such. According to national figures, 3.7 percent of American adults are daily e-cigarette users. The figures for students are even higher: 5.3 percent among middle school students, and 16 percent among high school students. Imagine if these figures were the statistics for cigarette smoking. That would put a large dent on the health of the American public.

What are the major obstacles you’ve faced in your advocacy as part of SFATA Delaware, as a business owner and as a consumer?

The ban on indoor vaping definitely left a huge impact in the vaping business. The public should be cheering the production of a safe product; instead, the government is curtailing its development. Vaping is a relatively new industry. So while vape shops are still trying to make their mark in the business, the government is already against them. One of the major obstacles of vape businesses nationwide is the attempt at curtailing them by raising taxes, usually by the state.

In the case of Delaware, there was a House Bill 5 last year that pissed at a lot of people. The bill essentially bans people from vaping in parts of the establishments where people were also banned from smoking. E-cigarettes were technically treated as cigarettes. Consumers of a product generally known to be a safer alternative to cigarettes should be given the freedom to vape wherever they want, especially since there are no documented ill effects of vaping among second-hand vapers.

Vaping has been around for some years, but many people are yet to understand what it’s about. What do you think is the biggest myth about vaping?

There is definitely that notion that e-cigarettes are just as bad as the real thing, which is why the government is trying to control its production and marketing. This is the biggest myth of all. There is no evidence that indicates e-cigarettes have health repercussions. Unlike cigarettes, which burns tobacco, e-cigarettes heat up an e-liquid turning them into vapors. In fact, e-cigarettes don’t contain an iota of tobacco. A lot of e-cigarettes also don’t contain nicotine. Although, there are still some products that are infused with nicotine just to give the vapers a pleasurable taste. E-cigarettes have four basic ingredients: water, vegetable glycerine, flavoring and nicotine. Cigarettes, on the other hand, have over 600 ingredients in them largely mixed with tobacco and nicotine. When burned, these ingredients turn into a thousand different kinds of chemicals.

Many studies are coming out on the hazards of vaping to the body, among other health concerns. What is your take on these scientific studies?

Life is best without nicotine. However, vaping has been known to be the lesser evil compared with smoking—and science backs this. Scientific studies generally state the vaping reduces the risk of heart diseases and stroke compared to smoking. And there are not a lot of studies about vaping, probably because it is generally a young concept. Vaping was only introduced in the US in 2007. But between 2007 and the present, the few scientific studies on vaping have all indicated that it is a harm reduced alternative to smoking. In fact, in a lot of cases, it is a tool for smokers to eventually kick the habit of smoking cigarettes.

What is your general advice on the use of e-cigs by teens and younger people?

There is a growing trend among teens and younger people to vape. This is because less than 10 states have issued regulations against selling e-cigarettes to minors. But this is also largely because there are no proven harmful effects of e-cigarettes. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there are about three million middle school and high school students that vape. E-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product among the youth in the country. E-cigarettes are attractive to the young ones because of their enticing flavors – strawberry, chocolate, mint, and even Belgian waffle. The positive thing that came out of this is that cigarette smoking among teens has dramatically dropped.

The best advice to teens and the younger generation that adults can give is that whether it’s a real cigarette or the reduced harm e-cigarette, habits are generally bad and are hard to kick. Then it is also important that the youth is educated about nicotine’s impact on the health—increased risk in high-blood pressure.

What is your message to the organizations/institutions that support vaping?

As long as vaping organizations, manufacturers, sellers, among others are united, they can fight government’s stiff regulations. Yesterday, it was the ban on indoor vaping. Tomorrow, it may be a larger ban on vaping. Business owners should be more vigilant about combating legislative changes as far as vaping is concerned. There are livelihood affected when government zero in on the vaping industry—starting regulations that are not necessary. Vaping advocates are fighting daily to stop the curtailment of this relatively safe way of smoking. Just like life in general, hard work usually pays off.

What is your message to the organizations/institutions that oppose vaping? Get your facts together. Vaping is not smoking and will never be the same as smoking—so regulations for vaping and smoking should be different and the difference should be far and wide. There are serious implications when vaping industries are forced to shut down because of opposition—a lot of the workers may lose their jobs. The opposition should also consider the positive implication of vaping, which is the significant decrease in smoking.

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